An item in the Metro has prompted some thoughts on the position of ex-offenders in education and elsewhere. The item, which does not appear to be on-line, was to my mind a bit scare-mongering since it mentioned pedophiles, someone with a conviction of assaulting a child and another with a conviction for causing death by reckless driving were seeking to work with children.
The first point to be made is that these applicants were weeded out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) which suggests that they are doing their job properly.
A second point, made by a letter writer in today’s edition, is that criminals sometimes reform and society can help facilitate that by allowing ex-offenders to seek legitimate employment. To an extent, this already happens; the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act allows for some convictions to become “spent” after a period of six months to ten years, depending on the penalty imposed. A penalty greater than a jail sentence of 30 months can never become spent. There are, however, exceptions and any job involving working with children is one such.
I am going to be controversial here and suggest that this should not always be the case and indeed that some convictions which currently result in applicants being weeded out should not always do so. The issue should be whether or not the applicant is likely to re-offend, which is the rationale behind the ROA – if an offender keeps on the straight and narrow for a period of time after conviction it seems reasonable to assume that s/he has reformed. This seems particularly likely for a one-off offender.
I am sure at this point somebody is thinking “OMG! He wants paedos to work in schools!!” Far from it; please note I wrote “The issue should be whether or not the applicant is likely to re-offend…” and my understanding (though bear in mind that I am not a psychologist or criminologist) is that paedophiles never truly reform – they may not re-offend but they are always going to be tempted so the only way to stop them re-offending is to eliminate temptation by keeping them away from children. So, in my view, convicted child-sex offenders should never be allowed to work with children.
Next on the Metro scare list was the applicant with a conviction for assault on a child. Without knowing the circumstances leading up to this particular conviction I cannot express any opinion on the liklihood of re-offending; the circumstances leading to this conviction could be possibly be recreated in the classroom or they may have been such that they are never likely to be repeated. Such a case should be considered on the particular circumstances.
Finally, the applicant with a conviction of causing death by dangerous driving. This killing must have been accidental otherwise s/he would have been convicted of manslaughter or murder. Hence, as far as I can see, s/he is no more a threat to children than anyone else and should not have been automatically excluded.
In my view, the exceptions to the ROA should be reformed – rather than a blanket ban on the non-revealing of spent convictions, only certain crimes relevent to the profession concerned should be excluded from the ROA. I have concentrated on education here because that is where I work but I am sure similar arguments could be made for other professions covered by the Exceptions Order.